Posts Tagged ‘Tom Cruise’

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Despised by critics, Anne Rice’s tale of vampire mainstreaming has its flaws.  It also works significantly better than its first installment, Interview With the Vampire, where Brad Pitt was horribly miscast.  Even Tom Cruise felt wrong at a gut level, although both of them can act.  It just wasn’t going to work from inception.  The best part of the Interview film was the amazing Kirsten Dunst, who stole the show at 12 years old.

The Rice universe is so un-Hollywood.  It doesn’t jibe with red carpets and hype.  There’s a subtlety and complexity that is on the page, and perhaps film isn’t the right place to try and recreate it.  The two mediums are just so different, and the characters can seem a bit of a letdown when cast with actors.  Much of the magic doesn’t translate at all.  At least in Queen everyone involved looked dead on appropriate.

Queen of the Damned is more of a filmable story than some of her other books.  Tension ramps up toward the end, but there was a cold distancing from the characters that plagued the movie.  Empathy for the characters was in short supply.  None are particularly likable, although Akasha, the Egyptian Queen, is stunning to look at and brought a powerful presence that was unexpected.  She gives the film hope, once awakened, which is actually rather ironic.

I don’t think I’m totally off base seeing Lestat as a harbinger of a new age of nihilism.  Lestat is a product of the imperial age, while Akasha is the ancient absolutist.  But Lestat bridges the ages, uniquely touching the ancient lust for ultimate power, and yet he has adapted to modern mass market consumerism and our sense of individualism.

With society lost in this age of confusion, the death of the old way and struggling to forge a new response to global awareness and raw, arbitrary exercise of power, Lestat becomes a symbol for our time.  He’s a rock star, mass murderer, rabid individualist who would give the finger to the entire vampire race.  He doesn’t care about the consequences.  Suicidal?  Or inspired to progress?  The same questions can be asked of our society.  We’d give the finger to future generations and to the ecosystems of the earth for the glory of our own whimsical chaos.

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The big question in vampire tales is always how they relate to the still living, seeing them as worthless food or retaining human compassion.  Here Lestat is a bit muddled, wishy-washy over the course of the story.  Lestat is disillusioned with vampirism, the old ways, and yet flirts with Godlike power as he has throughout the books.  Here, the point is not so clear, and the story’s ending seems truncated and perhaps a bit unsatisfying.

The critics had a shit tossing fest at the film, but what are the alternatives?  It’s damned hard to make a vampire film that works on every level, which does something new and yet doesn’t go off the rails.  Case in point, Twilight, an abysmal juvenile take on vampires, at least the first film.  I avoided the others.  Even Coppola royally fucked up the granddaddy of them all – Dracula: terrible casting, terrible creative license with the source material, one of the biggest mistakes in all of recorded vampire history.

What Queen of the Damned did was stick to the spirit of the original, the coldness, the animalism, the nihilistic desperation of it all.  This was quite a bit closer to Rice than Interview.  Not a great movie, but definitely better than most vampire films.

Oblivion (2013)

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Joe Giambrone
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Slow start but picks up at the end with an interesting twist.  The film has been sold based on setting and not much more, very visual and design-oriented.  It was difficult to discern what the thing was about.

Which is a spoiler, so I’m not going to say.  It’s inspired by 70s hard sci-fi, desolate planets and a small cast.  The film delivers what you’d probably expect.  Hollywood action sequences appear, some very video-gamey, a battle here or there.  The very end is sort of expected, a tad predictable.

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I liked that easy parallels can be made to the drone wars we see today.  The main enemies on screen are the drones that Tom Cruise is assigned to fix.  They are a foreboding, planet-wide menace, ruthless machines of death.  Some may see a similar situation off the big screen.

Like Prometheus, the film shot in Iceland, a most cool country for so many reasons.  Oblivion ends up somewhere between Prometheus (sucky) and Elysium (revolutionary).  Not brilliant, not all that emotional or authentic, but a passable couple of hours.  In an up/down vote I’d say up, 3 stars out of 5.

 

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This gets moving about halfway through.

 

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As is expected in this action / crime / military genre, right wing ideology is a stock in trade.

Jack Reacher is a lawman outside the law.  He’ll do the “right thing” no matter what the law is.  Stuffed with interesting fight scenarios, car chases, shootouts, in the end the story is one lengthy sales pitch for the death penalty.  As in all death penalty propaganda, the innocent men wrongly executed get no mention.  The moral qualms of US governors who placed moratoriums on the practice get no mention.  Problems in the “justice” system, however, do appear – but is this simply the bad apple lament?  Ooops, I guess there’s a spoiler in there somewhere, sort of, maybe.

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Essentially the city’s DA has a daughter, and she opposes daddy’s death penalty policies.  A heinous, complex spree murder though is set to change her mind on the matter.  It gets all up into its intrigue and Tom Cruise-isms for a while, and Werner Herzog shows up as a creepy former Siberian prisoner monster crime lord of sorts.  I hadn’t expected Herzog, and this was interesting.  With Herzog’s recent death house documentary (which I hadn’t seen) I surely didn’t expect what is essentially an argument in favor of executions.  The Jack Reacher way wins out in the end, as if anyone ever doubted that.  Death is the appropriate sentence.  The formerly pacifistic lawyer woman is now okay with daddy’s policies.  Barf bags optional.

 

 

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Where to start?  How about with an observation concerning World War Z and how Hollywood muddles nearly any political point it ever tries to make in the service of maximizing viewership?  “That’s how they sell the most tickets imaginable, by appealing across a broad spectrum, and combining so many ideas that everyone can walk away feeling like they got what they wanted (Anthony Kaufman).”  Pretty good observation, and it also lets the perpetrators of propaganda off the hook for the more malignant ideas they push on the masses.  Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises was a case in point.  So what has that got to do with Tom Cruise dancing around in his underwear?

“Get off the babysitter!”

Risky Business spoke to me when I first snuck in to the multiplex through the exit door and caught it.  I guess I was 16, a junior in high school.  Joel (Cruise) has a debauched best friend Miles who is always prodding him to cross that next line.  I had a similar real world compatriot, and so this relationship at the opening of the movie immediately grabbed my attention.  And if that wasn’t enough, there are also a bevy of stunning prostitutes in the film, including Rebecca DeMornay as Lana.  That’s enough to attract 90% of 16 y.o. American boys, and so where does this thing go?

It goes off into the world of business, capitalism, Yale.  It’s an odd and sometimes confusing journey into supply and demand.  In this case the supply is Lana and friends; the demand are the little rich boys of a Chicago suburb who are ready to put their money down.

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Ah, but the competition is not going to sit still while upstarts like Joel try and pilfer a stable of high class call girls.  Enter Guido the killer pimp.  And then it seems Joel himself has ascended into the pimp racket.  There are some strange complications however, as prostitution, pimping and competition also entail the little matter of stealing whatever’s not nailed down.  In this case, the stealing is from Joel’s own house – scratch that – Joel’s parents’ house while they are away on business.  The stakes for Joel keep raising, especially after his Dad’s turbo Porsche ends up in the lake.

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One might try and claim a clear pro-capitalist, even libertarian slant to Joel and his pimp business.  Supply, demand, profit, everyone’s happy (not Guido).  But is that the ultimate point of Risky Business, or is there a larger ironic point to be gleaned?  The ending, and its Yale business school tie-in leave room for contemplation.

Oh I hate giving away plot, and yet I need to stuff a sufficient amount of words into these things.  See the movie, if you haven’t already.  You tell me what you think.

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The Unacknowledged “Master”: director Paul Thomas Anderson
& a film that’s not about Scientology

Jennifer A Epps

Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite film director who isn’t Scorsese. And even then, it’s getting very close. When I ambled out into the light after the L.A. native’s sixth feature, the psychological period epic The Master, I felt like I had just seen one of the greatest American films in a couple of decades. If you haven’t heard much about it, however, that’s because it isn’t nominated for any Oscars in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, or Best Score categories – in all of which cases it was robbed, in my humble opinion. It did still, nonetheless, receive 3 Oscar nominations for the work of each of its principal actors (Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams). The acting was so rich and full it was impossible not to notice, but the Academy has treated the success of The Master’s cast as some kind of fluke, as if they could all just give spectacular performances without the words, story, and characters P.T. Anderson supplied them with in the first place, or the nuanced direction he gave them to guide them through some challenging and unusually-paced material.

One hears a lot about Kathryn Bigelow being snubbed by the Academy this year, and the question of whether this was in reaction to how she depicted torture in Zero Dark Thirty. One also hears about Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, and Tom Hooper being left out of the Best Director category while their films were all nominated for Best Picture (though obviously when there are only 5 directors nominated yet 9 Best Picture nominees, there have to be some exclusions). What’s given little attention, however, is how severely Anderson and The Master were overlooked by the Academy (and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association) in the top categories. In fact, Anderson was not even part of the “directors’ roundtables” assembled by various news agencies early in the awards season. The reason for this perhaps is that Anderson’s work is so stubbornly idiosyncratic. The Master is even more uncompromising than There Will Be Blood; both of these surprising films exist in alternate universes of filmmaking with scant interest in building a story along familiar lines, cutting where audiences expect a cut, or scoring a scene in a way that sounds like other movies.

This weekend, there’s a chance for the British Academy to take a stand for originality at the BAFTAs, as The Master is nominated (once again) for awards for all three of its principal actors, as well as for Original Screenplay. And next weekend, the Writers’ Guild could recognize Anderson’s screenplay at the WGA Awards. However, I’m not sure anyone is holding their breath at this point, since there’s a little thing called “momentum”, and The Master seems to have lost that, while other, more commercial fare, has surged ahead.

But it is important to note that the title of this review is not strictly accurate. The Master, and Anderson’s impossibly fertile talent, is not completely ‘unacknowledged.’ For one thing, Anderson took home the second highest award at the Venice Film Festival, the Silver Lion, for Best Director. The Venice jury also awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actor to both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. And apparently, the jury also wanted to award The Master the top prize at Venice, the Golden Lion, for Best Film, but new rules limited the jury to no more than two awards per film, no matter how exceptional the film. (The third award The Master picked up at the City of Canals was from the critics, the FIPRESCI award for the best film in competition.)

The Master has been a critical darling at home, too. Early in the awards season, it picked up a boat-load of trophies from critics’ associations across the U.S. Its wins are noted in the table below. That won’t help anyone in their Oscar pools, but it shows how far apart the critics and the Academy are. And it is worth keeping in mind when The Master is released on DVD on Feb. 26th, two days after the Oscars.
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